If you are a complete beginner, mountain climbing does not have to be expensive. You can start low profile, with just a few items and expand later if you realize this is for you.
Mountain climbing may or may not be an expensive hobby. This depends on:
- Distance from the mountains.
- Type of the mountains and geography.
- Planned mountaineering activities.
These three elements are described below.
So how much money is needed for mountaineering?
This question and the question in the title are real questions that people ask. This may be purely out of curiosity or by somebody who is a beginner and needs information to start this activity.
Note that I use the terms mountaineering and mountain climbing interchangeably, in my view they are synonyms as discussed in my separate text.
So if you are a beginner, I would not advise to spend much money on an activity that may not be for you. So try first with minimal equipment on easy and doable tours and see how it works.
On the other hand, in my text about trekking and hiking differences, I gave a screenshot of somebody who has no mountaineering experience of any kind, yet he was asking about climbing Mount Everest.
So if you too think that only the highest mountain on the Earth is worth your time and effort, then it will be expensive to start. I have not been there, but from what I see in 2022 this will be anywhere between $30000 and $150000. The median price seems to be around $45000.
Similarly, if your goal as a beginner is to climb Mount Vinson, the highest mountain on Antarctica, you can be sure it will be expensive. Think about the range $40000-80000.
Now, let’s be serious and discuss the items mentioned above.
Distance from the mountains
If you have mountains at your door step, then you are a lucky person. You will not spend much on transportation, you can make tours directly from home, and this means you do not have to stay in mountain huts and similar places. You can carry food from home, etc.
The closes mountains to my place are around 1000 km. So this is a misery and it implies considerable transport expenses. I rent small flats through Booking,com, or/and sleep in the car and in the camps. Now you may better understand the issue of distance.
But in one period I lived on Tenerife and I had El Teide (3718 m) mountain at a stone throw. So I climbed it 8 times. See the picture, you may realize why.
Type of the mountains and geography
If your home is close to high mountains in some warm geographical area, then mountains will likely be without snow and glaciers. This means your equipment will not include items like crampons, ice axe, and hard mountaineering boots designed for crampons. El Teide shown above is a typical example.
Similarly, if you are in the Alps and go to a summit from the south side instead of the north side, you may not need anything of the mentioned items. A typical example is Hochfeiler or Gran Pilastro (3510 m) on the Austrian-Italian border. The top picture above is from my south side solo tour.
In late summer, here you only need a pair of good hiking boots. However, the north side of this mountain is fully glaciated. So it is neither for solo climb nor without full glacier equipment.
So if you are a complete beginner, your initial investment may be next to none, though this all depends on what is described in the next chapter below. If you are in Swiss Alps, then you will might need all these mentioned items, but even in this case, there are high and snow-free mountains in summer.
Your planned mountaineering activities
If you start with some walk up mountaineering tours, and this on mountains without snow and ice in summer time, you will need just a few items. These will include some mountaineering boots or hiking boots, and a backpack. Most of other things you may already have, like some waterproof clothing, a poncho, glasses, a hut, etc.
There is no need to pay guides for such tours, there is plenty of information on the Internet. My own site about mountaineering contains only the tours that I climbed myself, so you can find all the details from my own first-hand experience. This and similar sites have comments section where you can always ask for extra information if needed.
You may buy a map, but those are not so expensive, in the case of the Alps you will find them in the range 10-15 Euro most of the time. But if this is too much, plenty of such stuff is available online as well, you can download and use.
Social media are a valuable source of information from many points of view. You will see people exchanging information, creating groups for some tours, etc. So check on Facebook in particular.
There are people who are interested only in via ferrata types of tours. If this is what you want, you will have to invest into a climbing harness, some Y-shape rope, and a helmet. This is an affordable initial investment and these pieces of equipment may last for the rest of your life. My own Petzl helmet is many years old and I am sure I shall never need another one.
Realistically, if/when you get “infected” with mountaineering, it is likely you will never stop. So your goals will change and you will expand your mountaineering area. This will require more expenses, but I would not think about this if you are a beginner.
How to reduce mountaineering costs
Climb close to home if you can. Choose routes that need no special equipment
I discussed this above, so start with the mountains close to your home. Also, there are high mountains with great summit routes where you do not need special equipment.
I have a separate text about some great routes in the Dolomites, so have a look there. You will see that you do not need any special stuff, and they are all 3000ers.
I mentioned guides, and here to add an episode from a summit in the Italian Alps. There was a man with his guide, both similar age, elderly people.
The man was from Germany. He was showing me the surrounding peaks and explained that he climbed them all multiple times. With this same guide of course.
Clearly, he was somebody who can afford this, and it seemed he was a permanent client of his Austrian guide. After so many climbs, there is no doubt he could do this without the guide, but he did not.
There is no need to do this the same or similar way. You do not have to go solo either, there are options to find partners. I mentioned social media.
You do not have to buy instantly everything you need. There are many places to rent equipment for some particular tours.
Mont Blanc is a great example, this is a very touristic mountain, many beginners will go there first when they decide to climb in the Alps. Why bother with anything lower?
Do you really need to pay for lifts?
If you go to the Alps, you will realize there are lifts everywhere. I try not to notice them. There is even a train going directly to the highest mountain of Germany.
You do not have to be a purist in strict sense. But most of the time you do not have to pay for such a service. Do not be lazy, use the approach route as a sort of acclimatization and prepare your body for the summit push.
Do you need to stay in a hut?
The answer is – not necessarily, but this will depend on the mountain of course. I have seen a YT video of a modest Polish man climbing Matterhorn in one day after sleeping in a tent in Zermatt. He was back the same day. He was not chasing records, just doing the tour in his own simple way.
Can you earn from mountaineering?
The answer is yes, and if you want to read more please check my text about how people make living hiking. All basic steps described there apply to mountaineering as well, there is no essential difference.
In summary, if you love mountains, and in particular if you have them close to home, you can start almost without any investment. Many factors determine what you may need later, but you can start in a simple way.
But as Messner said once, if you are willing to pay a lot, you can get even to the summit of Mount Everest, they will carry even plastic chairs for you.
Indeed, I have seen once some big names sitting in a tent very high in a base camp in Himalayas, they had a table and chairs, and they were developing their strategy with maps on the table. Of course, there was a crew with cameras filming their achievements. Well, good luck with this type of mountaineering, this is not how I see it, so you will have to read some other texts for this.
See more in various texts around, in particular in the category Mountaineering. Thank you for reading. Share your thoughts, there is a comment box below.